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Katherine Heigl: Problematic Actress or Victim of Sexism?

Katherine Heigl has a likability problem. If you google “Why do people hate Katherine Heigl?”, you’ll get the full story. If you’re still here, here’s the gist of it: basically, a few years after her film Knocked Up was released and met with commercial success propelling her into a successful film career, Heigl spoke to Vanity Fair about the film’s message and mentioned that the idea behind it was completely sexist. The media, as well as the general public, weren’t too pleased about this, calling Heigl “spoiled” and telling her not to “bite the hand that feeds her.” Now, I’ve seen Knocked Up, and the woman has a point. The film is misogynistic… it’s funny, I’ll give it that, but it’s also extremely sexist.

After the media hounded her for the quote, Heigl immediately recanted, mentioning that Knocked Up was one of her best filming experiences. Judd Apatow, the film’s director, and Seth Rogen, the male lead, spoke up against her in a 2009 interview with Howard Stern, describing her comments as unnecessary, saying that the film’s sexist undertones were all simply part of the intended humour. They even took a little time to express concern for not receiving an apology from the actress, further going on to mock her film roles at the time. After the whole debacle, Heigl’s career took a serious turn for the worse, almost like someone was out to get her. Her once promising acting career slowed down. She started to develop a reputation for being difficult to work with. The tabloids finally found a selling-point for her name.

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Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen in Knocked Up

“The film’s a little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as loveable, goofy, fun guys. I had a hard time with it, on some days. I’m playing such a bitch; why is she being such a kill-joy? Why is this how you’re portraying women? Ninety-eight percent of the time it was an amazing experience, but it was hard for me to love the movie.”

Now let’s not forget, back In ’09-’10, the actress commanded a whopping 15 million dollars per film, which is pretty reasonable since she was the reigning “rom-com” queen at the time and her name alone guaranteed a box office hit. Over the course of her career, Heigl’s films have grossed over 1.36 billion dollars at the worldwide box office. So, no, she wasn’t just a passing fad. She was the real deal and had the numbers to prove it. This isn’t a simple case of a fading Hollywood starlet. There is something much deeper at the root of Heigl’s career trajectory.

Heigl is very opinionated; this doesn’t go over well for actresses in Hollywood. She always had something to say about her projects, regardless of what people thought. America wanted her to be the next Julia Roberts; to be modest, criticize no one, smile for the paparazzi, and maintain a sense of gratitude for everything while keeping her opinions to herself. But Heigl had a voice, and she used it. In a 2011 interview with Elle Magazine, she talked about being aware of how the public perceives her, going on to discuss the career trajectory she’d faced as a result of being an opinionated actress.

CBS 2016 Summer TCA - Panel

Heigl promoting CBS’s Doubt in 2017

“I’ve never really been America’s sweetheart, but for a minute, I think that’s what they wanted me to be. I had ’em for a second thinking maybe I was… and then I opened my mouth, and it was very clear that I wasn’t.”

Seth Rogen recently spoke to The Howard Stern Show about the Knocked Up debacle, somewhat defending Heigl over the entire situation, nine years too late. He more or less states that her film career did in fact get ruined because of the entire controversy surrounding the EW article. “Maybe…she realizes that it has hurt her career”, he told Stern. “I don’t want that to have happened to her at all. Because I’ve said a thousand stupid things, and I really like her. Especially if she is being honest […] The only people who…should in any way take anything from it is me and Judd [Apatow]. Because we are the ones she was talking about. For other people to not work with her because she didn’t like her experience with us is crazy.” He also stated that “as someone who’s an egomaniac, I just get hurt by that.”

Rogen’s comments speak volumes, further proving the injustice of the entire situation and speaking to the point I’m trying to make in this article: Katherine Heigl’s career got ruined because she is a woman that dared speak about sexism in her work place. Yes, she is a Hollywood celebrity. She has it much easier than the rest of the world. But she is, in fact, fighting the same battle that many women around the world are also fighting. Take away the glitz, the glamour and the worldwide fame, and you’ll have another woman being outwardly punished for choosing to speak up about sexism in the workplace. She’s “ungrateful”. She “couldn’t take a joke”. She’s “blowing things out of proportions”. No, she’s a victim of sexism.

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Picture a young Agent Fox Mulder, dressed like a supporting character in a John Hughes film, drinking a green tea latte. Swap the UFO mess with pop culture, and you’ll have Mohamed. He's currently working towards a BA in English Literature, with a minor in Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter, he thinks he's really funny: @mohamedbuhendi

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Picture a young Agent Fox Mulder, dressed like a supporting character in a John Hughes film, drinking a green tea latte. Swap the UFO mess with pop culture, and you’ll have Mohamed. He's currently working towards a BA in English Literature, with a minor in Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter, he thinks he's really funny: @mohamedbuhendi

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  1. Rael

    April 13, 2017 at 2:20 am

    Um… Are we seriously gonna pretend that one comment about a film she starred in was the sole factor in the demise of her career? 😒

    This article is extremely lopsided in its presentation of Katherine as a “victim” and leaves out some equally noteworthy things about her that contributed to her decline. She famously refused submit herself for Emmy nomination considerations during her tenure on Grey’s Anatomy and justified her decision by belittling the efforts of the show’s creators, claiming that the quality of the writing in regards to her character was too inadequate to warrant a nomination. The very same TV show that caused her to win an Emmy the year before she got too big for her britches, that put her on the map and even made it possible for her to be considered relevant enough to be given starring roles in films. And she has a track record for throwing producers and co-stars under the bus, which is why Shonda Rimes eventually had enough of her and wrote her out of the show. Funny how none of this was mentioned in the article, huh? Guess it would ruin the victim narrative you were trying to build up for her.

    FYI, Katherine only had two hugely successful films to her name before she fell off and they were released within the same time period, so yes she was a fad. She proved herself incapable of maintaining her success. She thought she didn’t need Grey’s Anatomy and would enjoy a nice, long streak as top grossing movie star only to come groveling back for her role on the show she once felt she was too important for.

    Also, if you truly think a film is sexist and you’re supposedly against sexism, what you don’t do is agree to participate in that film knowing full well what the material entails. We all know damn well that actors have to read a script before signing on for their role. Katherine waited until she cashed the check from that “sexist” movie to start pretending like she gave a damn about sexism in Hollywood.

    This article must be written by her publicist or someone connected to her to paint such an inaccurate picture of her. Everyone knows that Katherine’s insistence on shooting herself in the foot is why she’s acquired such a terrible reputation and can’t find work anymore. Not every bad thing that happens to a woman is the result of sexism. Sometimes the woman is legitimately guilty of doing off putting things that fosters dislike in those around her. Not every woman is nice, not ever woman is hard working, not every woman trustworthy, not every woman understands the concept of teamwork. Just as there are awful men who bring failure upon themselves, the same can be said about equally awful women. And Katherine Heigl happens to be one of such women.

    If there’s anything even remotely resembling sexism about her career trajectory is that it brings about the question as to whether a difficult male actor would be shown the door by Hollywood as early on as Katherine was.

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